The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on February 19th, 2020 | Movie Review | Serial Killer, Found Footage, Torture

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It's a mockumentary about the hunt for an elusive serial killer who documented his many heinous kills on hundreds of old VCR tapes.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes was directed by John Erick Dowdle (who also directed As Above, So BelowDevil and Quarantine) and stars Stacy Chbosky, Ben Messmer and Ivar Brogger.

The last thing his victims saw... was his camera.

I first watched The Poughkeepsie Tapes a couple of years ago after seeing it recommended throughout the horror community. People seemed genuinely freaked out by this film and were dropping words like terrifying, disturbing and something you can't unsee. So of course, I had to see it. Then I saw it. And I didn't like it.

My take on it back then was that it was basic. It only had one tool in its horror toolbox; the concept of active serial killers. The thought of crazed killers running around is unsettling, sure, but all Poughkeepsie did was deliver that concept through the use of found footage which was all the rage back then. It was similar to Lake Mungo, which used found footage to deliver the concept of ghosts being real. Not scary, parasitic or even threatening, just real. I really love serial killer movies, but it takes more to rattle me than just the concept that they're walking around out there.

For whatever reason I decided to rewatch Poughkeepsie last night, and I have to admit it was better the second time around.

The ultra-low production value (however intentional) was still distracting and tiring on the eyes, but the story had more impact. Knowing the ending made the first grave robbing scene way more disturbing and the psychological damage of the primary victim was more convincing. Best guess is that the rewatch was better because I was no longer expecting shit I "couldn't unsee". This time I went into it knowing what to expect and therefore wasn't judging the shock factor of every scene.

This time around I could appreciate the dreary, gloomy vibe. I was fine with most of the attacks being off screen, knowing that the ones I actually got to see would pack a bigger punch. I wasn't hung up on the fact that this serial killer was some kind of mastermind who had the entire law enforcement community both baffled (and impressed). And I was also able to be open to the subtler details such as how the soft spoken nature of the killer contrasted well with his surprising brutality. I mean, this was a guy who would chop off heads and sew them into the stomachs of living victims. Off screen of course.

This rewatch was better and I'm glad I got more out of Poughkeepsie this time. But, ultimately, it's still a basic movie with a simple premise and a low value delivery.

Worth Watching? 

If you're into found footage flicks or mockumentaries than sure, since these aspects carry the movie more than anything else. But if you're looking for gore, plot or production value I'd pass on Poughkeepsie.

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